19 October 2014

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Rebecca Hazell on CONSOLAMENTUM

 This week, we're pleased to welcome author REBECCA HAZELL with the third in her The Tiger and the Dove series, CONSOLAMENTUM. One lucky visitor will get a free copy of the novel in Kindle format. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

In the finale of Sofia's memoir, Consolamentum, both dramatic and poignant, her dreams of home are shattered when her own family betrays her. Raising her child on her own, mourning the loss of her beloved knight, and building a trading empire, she seeks safe haven for her child and herself. Her quest takes her from Antioch to Constantinople to Venice. A surprise reunion in Venice leads her to France where she runs afoul of the newly established Holy Inquisition, possibly the greatest challenge she has yet faced. Can a woman so marked by oppression, betrayal, and danger ever find her safe haven, much less genuine happiness?
**Q&A with Rebecca Hazell**
Welcome. Can you tell us a bit about your historical trilogy? I understand that the title for the series is The Tiger and the Dove, so maybe you could start there.

Thanks for hosting me. Yes, The Tiger and the Dove was taken from something Genghis (Chinggis) Khan once said: “In war be like a tiger; in peace be like a dove.” My novels are set in a war-torn era, where the tiger was more likely to dominate than the dove. But I then contrasted that predatory mindset with the dove’s, because there were always people who were not buying into the tiger approach and who kept civilization going. Without them, the tigers would have torn each other and everyone else apart! In addition, I wanted to show how people could also be peaceful, not just passive, but at home in their own skins, to so speak; or who couldn’t find peace and were therefore tragic figures.
Tell us about the three novels.
The first, The Grip of God, is set during the Mongol invasions of medieval Rus’, where my heroine Sofia is from, and then of Europe. Sofia grows from a spoiled, petted princess into someone both tough and tender, who survives the worst and yet maintains her good heart. She has to be tough, as she’s enslaved and then carried along with the Mongol invasion. There are also lots of plot twists and sub-stories that give the reader a sense of that complex and rather terrifying time; and there is also a difficult romance.
In the second novel, Solomon’s Bride, Sofia has escaped into Iran, where she encounters many of the same problems she’d thought to leave behind. She again must survive difficulties: virtual imprisonment in Alamut, capital of the dreaded Assassins, and another virtual imprisonment in a Crusader castle. Again, there are many subplots, and the reader learns not only her story but also that of others who have also lost so much to war and have had to rebuild their lives. And she falls deeply in love, a love that seems doomed by the crusade of Louis IX.
The third novel, Consolamentum, takes Sofia farther west, first to Antioch and Constantinople, then to Venice, southern France, and Paris. She was quite the traveler, but her adventures resemble those of the Polo brothers, whom I include in the story as her friends. It’s amazing to think that they, like many others, thought nothing of crossing a vast continent not once but twice!
The question that always haunts Sofia is how to find and be able to rest in love. To do so, she must withstand many trials of faith, partly faith in herself and partly faith in love itself. I don’t want to say more and spoil the plot.
It sounds like a serious trilogy.
Yes, it is. But I believe it is entertaining, too, or so independent reviewers have said. I believe I struck a balance between realism and romance. And I have something universal to say, I believe. We all yearn for love; no one wants to be caught up in war. Like Scarlett O’Hara, Sofia has a vision of what she wants and isn’t shy of using her feminine qualities as strengths; unlike Scarlett, she’s not totally selfish and unscrupulous!
What did you enjoy most and least about writing this series of novels?
I loved creating a character who is age appropriate at each stage of her life, who can be petty at one moment and totally generous at another, just like us. It was like witnessing one of my own children unfold into someone unexpected and three-dimensional. In fact, I tried to treat all my characters that way, so that no one was totally ‘the bad guy’, no matter how cruel or deluded they were. All are complex, all have reasons for being who they are.
What I least enjoyed was realizing how truly brutal many people were in that long ago era. Sometime I feel, given our current news, that we haven’t moved much beyond that stage, and then I look around at the amazing way we do cooperate to create a more or less inclusive and functioning society, and I thank my lucky stars that we don’t have Mongols and Assassins and Crusaders and Inquisitors lurking around every corner. Though I suppose that could happen …
Thank you for visiting. Would you like to end our interview with an excerpt from Consolamentum?
Yes, thank you, and yes. Here it is:
“That child you carry is a bastard!  And worse, its father is a known seducer and liar!  We have been at a loss over what to do ever since we found out, for surely you believed this Sir Joscelin’s falsehoods or you’d never have lain with him—I can only hope so, at least.  But you endangered my entire family’s reputation with your heedless conduct.  While you were so ill, your uncle Basil took steps to protect you, even established himself as your guardian. But we still have no idea how to untangle you from the web this man wove around you.”
By the time she had finished speaking, she had calmed down considerably, but her words were hammer blows on my heart.  I sat down on one of her chairs to gather my thoughts.  When I finally spoke, I could not hide the quaver in my voice.  “Where did you hear such things?”
“Basil has many connections in Antioch and beyond.  It took only a month to discover the truth from his agent in Cyprus.  He had to quell the terrible slanders he heard about you.  His man says you are the butt of jests in every tavern, but my husband would not believe his dear niece was anyone’s concubine—and that is the kindest word he heard used about you!  But the more Basil heard, the more alarmed he became.
“He first thought to take you to our country estate as soon as you were fit to travel.  But I urged him to wait, to put out more enquiries into your holdings and so forth, and to set about protecting you in case your seducer might have seized anything through some trick.”
“Good God, these slanders, I assure you, are utterly unjust.  Both of us behaved with the greatest restraint for over a year, always considering ourselves betrothed to each other.  But then he was forced to marry that terrible girl, which was a disaster for us all, even for her.  Their marriage was never consummated, and Sir Joscelin only awaits news of its annulment, and with the blessings of King Louis himself!  He has behaved with complete virtue toward me, and we are truly betrothed, which is as good and binding as marriage.  Indeed, we are married in the eyes of God if not the Church.
“And if he lied to me, why give me not one but two rings, one of the utmost value to him?  I am certain the evil rumors you heard about him merely stem from the death of his first wife, for which he utterly blames himself.  He has been paying for that tragic death ever since. He even went to the Holy Land hoping to die in battle, a death I am so glad our Merciful Lord refused him!”
Caterina looked at me as if I had grown another head.  “You are sadly mistaken, Sofia.  It was bad enough at first when I learned of your previous marriage.  No one who has been widowed should remarry—and you already told us you were widowed—but I thought this last marriage had already taken place and that there was no more to be said about it!” 

I paled, afraid of what would come next.  Why had I ever tried to cover my tracks by mentioning I was a widow?  I had not even told the exact truth about the so-called marriage, just that I’d been married to a merchant who had died on our journey west.  They’d have been far more horrified had they known I had wed not one but two Muslims, Selim and then his son Kerim after Selim was murdered.  Ironically, both marriages had been temporary and not true unions, at least from my point of view.  They simply took advantage of a custom among the Shi’a, first as a way for me to belong to Selim’s family and then to escape Alamut with Kerim.  Neither had been consummated, though a little guilt flitted through my heart.  Had Kerim not been murdered, too, I might have relented one day and lain with him. I had been celibate for so long and was so ruined already that the sin of it would not have stopped me.
About the author
Rebecca Hazell is an award winning artist, author, and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best-selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases. She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.

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